Words: Amit Chhangani
Images: Hanoz Patel
Just a day with the Audi A8L spoiled us enough to think of every other car on the road with a premium badging as a pretender. Loaded with technology which is at the cutting edge of automotive evolution, propelled by prodigious power and outfitted with the most sinful luxury within its cabin, the A8L, in its top of the line 4.2 TDI guise managed to leave us flattered like we’ve seldom been. This machine is for those who indulge without guilt. If over indulgence is a sin, then you have your worries cut out, for the A8 has a heaven on wheels right here for you.
While there’s much to talk about this gizmo laden machine, what would catch your fancy more than anything else is the feature-fest inside the cabin. The omnipotent, monstrous diesel engine, the gargantuan size, the evolved, understated yet intimidating design, the handling poise it exhibits for its size – there is much to talk about the A8L. However, we wouldn’t have done justice to this piece if we didn’t take you for a guided tour inside its magical cabin and showed you all the marvels within.
Cabin comfort and features
Unlike our usual routine, we won’t be starting this discussion with the styling or design of the car. We won’t be too verbose describing things either. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, and we’ve worked hard to capture every detail of this limo’s cabin. There’s just too much for you to visualize through words. So we’ll put every detail here in pictures, and describe it briefly for your convenience. Let’s get the magic show started!
The big console on the floating panel is slightly inclined upwards towards the dash. Dozens of buttons make it evident that this is no ordinary cabin. The sheer volume of wood inserts inside the cabin with smart chrome linings make the cabin stand out emphatically.
Among other tricks you have an advanced Infra Red Night Vision camera as an option. This is just one of the many cameras around the car. The A8L is almost like a ground based surveillance machine with its battalion of lenses all around. Here, we have listed of all of them along with pictures
Two corner view cameras at the rear to aid safe reversing
A straight rear camera for the longitudinal view
Straight camera up front.
And two more angled cameras up front for an angled view.
Finally an overhead sensor view to figure if there are any obstructions anywhere around the car. If you still manage to crash this car while parking, you’re officially a Chimp and not a human being.
While the front seats have the cockpit-like console, back bench is not devoid of wonders either. Occupants at the back get a whole bunch of their own toys to play with. And just look at that legroom!
Seat adjustment options for the rear left occupant. Functions include fore-aft adjustment for the front passenger’s seat for additional legroom, a 180 degree recline function which automatically pushes the front seat as forward as possible and electrically releases a pad from its back to offer support to the rear occupant’s legs. There are controls to change the angle of the LCD screen, normal adjustment for the seat and Lumbar support. Phew!
Electric support pad which drops down after the front seat has been pushed to its foremost position.
No, that’s not a remote control for the entertainment unit. That’s a body massage control unit with a variety of massage programs available.
You can choose from four massage types – Wave, Stretch, Pulse and Lumbar. You can also control the speed and intensity of the massage via this control unit.
Watch Hanoz enjoy a massage on his fully reclined seat. First Class aircraft seats would be humbled.
From the backseat, the dashboard looks like a captivating fusion of solid old-worldly craftsmanship and modern gizmos. Audi have used wood by the jungle. The cabin look really rich and luxurious in the very first view.
The amazingly well cushioned seats are one of the best set to be found on any automobile, anywhere in the world.
230V / 150W 50hz two-pin plug socket. You don’t need a car charger while you’re in the A8. Use your travel adapter directly.
Oh, and just in case you happen to have only a car charger, there’s the good old 12V power socket available as well, on the other side. Replete with a cigarette lighter, we must mention.
The passenger on the right behind the driver gets a different set of buttons to play with. Normal seat adjustment along with Lumbar adjust and massage function integrated in the seat adjustment panel.
Cabin features mood lighting with white light lining on the longitudinal roof flanks and around the sunroof controls cluster
The rear passengers get their own set of controls. A two-zone climate control unit, separate headphone sockets, cool/hot seat ventilation function, audio/Video/Radio control buttons and a small MMI interface for their own use completes the package. Audi supplies a set of headphones as well for use with the system. The panel also houses a mini table which can be pulled out when you wish to have refreshments. More on that later.
Mood lighting, rear reading lights and vanity mirror with automatic illumination for both back seats.
The Mini table we mentioned earlier emerges out of the rear panel. The gear operated movement is smooth and makes it easy to deploy and stow away.
There’s a small fridge too. A proper fridge, not a chilled compartment – with space for 8-10 cola cans, or any other beverage of your choice. Make merry as you travel!
Just look at those seats. Don’t they make you feel like diving into the screen and splatter yourselves over them?
The 17 speaker Bang & Olufsen loudspeaker audio is optional. Quite simply the best sound you can get on wheels.
Rear blinds, coat hook, reading light and a handle to hold on to when this 350PS, 800Nm rocketship gets going. 0-100km/h is taken care of in less than 6 secs.
We used a water bottle here to demonstrate the retractable table in use. Owners of this luxury limo with a chauffeur at the wheel should have far more enticing options at hand, especially with that fridge in the back.
The slot for the table has two cupholders and A/C blower units behind it.
Even the back seats get a memory storage, with single press full recline function. You also get buttons for deploying sunblinds.
The A8 is sinner friendly. It’s got a fridge for storing booze and an ash tray to drop the spent tobacco.
A 6 DVD changer under inside the glove compartment is another of those ‘small’ inclusions
Glares holder, reading lights, cabin light setting and sunroof controls.
The classy looking simplistic central clock acts as proof that you’re traveling in a luxury limo.
Apart from the CD slot, the central unit also has two SD card slots.
Light sensing headlamps, rain sensing wipers, Infra Red Night Vision – the works.
The A8 shares its instrument console with the A6 and A7 Sportback. In all honesty, we would have wanted it to be more exclusive.
Guess what? There’s an engine too! A 4.2 liter V8 Monster which wakes up and goes to sleep at the command of its master, shown right here in this picture
The drive selector on the A8 is unique. Crafted exquisitely, substantial and a pleasure to hold – its quite unlike any other drive selector we have used. Looks great, feels great – but takes a little getting used to before you learn how to slot it perectly into reverse.
The whole central unit looks beautiful together – doesn’t it?
Among many other wonders is the MMI touchpad. Normally, it will play any radio station for you based on the number you choose. Once, however, you enter your telephone directory, it identifies strokes and converts them into alphabet to help you search contacts in your phone book. It will also read finger gestures to take you to the music track of your choice
Various car-settings related options on the MMI interface. The screen flips out and slots back in flush in the dashboard.
The front passenger is probably the most deprived one. No massage for him, and even the seat adjustments are limited. Backseat is the place to be in this car.
Storage compartment in the door panel.
Heavy doors have soft-shut function. Doors are pulled in automatically when they are close enough to being shut
Driver side door panel comprises controls for ORVMs, doors lock / unlock, seat memory function and child locks for rear doors
The cutting edge LED adaptive headlights are right at the top of the illumination tech hierarchy. The ultra bright and durable LEDs are the most modern form of lighting on any automobile. They swirl on detecting a change in steering angle, allowing for optimum illumination around bends.
4.2 liter TDI, V8 Turbo. Peak Power : 350 PS @ 4000 rpm. Peak torque 800 Nm (no errors there) @1750–2750 rpm. 0-100 in 5.6 secs. Forced to do 250km/h only. Need we say more?
Massive trunk comes with a space saver spare underneath. With the convenience key in your pocket, you just need to stick a leg under to boot for it to open automatically. Helps, when you have both your hands full with stuff.
LCD screens, like most of the cool gadgets you see here are optional. An A8 L as liberally equipped as the one you see in these pictures will cost you a lot more than the stock A8.
Next Page for Engine, gearbox & driving dynamics>>>
Engine, gearbox & driving dynamics
The A8 houses a big, bad 4.2 liter TDI turbo diesel monster under its massive bonnet. And the output figures are simply astounding. While the peak power, rated at 350 PS @ 4000 rpm is impressive enough for a diesel engine, its the peak torque which blows your socks off. Rated at a titanic 800 Nm between a low @1750–2750 rpm the engine makes the weight of the car immaterial as it propels it. Audi has used its Aluminium Spaceframe wizardry to keep the weight low at a little over 2.1 tons. It’s a humongous car, mind, the A8L, with length well exceeding 5 meters and all of Audi’s tech gadgetry fitted tight within. For such a huge, powerful and tech laden car, that weight would still be counted as light. However, as we mentioned earlier, the 4.2 TDI earth mover of a mill makes the weight inconsequential. The A8 surges ahead with stupefying reassurance irrespective of the rev range you’ve placed it in.
The beauty of it is that the diesel engine, even with all its power and torque is surprisingly quiet and refined. There’s an absolute quiet inside the cabin and its only after 4000 rpm that you get to hear the engine at work – that too is a mild note. In addition the Quattro AWD makes sure that all that power and torque is laid down to the tar via those 235/55 R 18 tyres in manner which is devoid of any drama. Sure you can feel the monumental force working on the wheels, but its not translated into the cabin as an uncouth shove. A firm, progressive force presses you against the seat backs as you bury the pedal. No wheelspin, no slithering, no theatrics – its as sophisticated a way as such forceful acceleration can ever be experienced in.
Apart from the Quattro jugglery you also have the option of ordering your A8 with a sport rear differential – which, of course will cost you extra money. What the technology does is, apart from splitting drive between front and rear axles, distributes the force between the rear two wheels as well, depending on the amount of grip available. So while taking a left hand corner at speed, the rear right wheel will get more drive as it is more heavily loaded, helping the car keep its line with optimum grip and balance.
Does it work? Well, even a kindergarten kid would tell you that the A8, and that too in the long wheelbase guise is not meant to write poetry with rubber on windy pieces of tar. That with its mammoth size it’s got to be unwieldy and overly soft, right? we’re sorry to shatter some old perceptions here, but that’s really not the case. In Dynamic mode, the A8L with a firmer setting of its air suspension and a heavier, more feelsome steering does transform into quite a party. Sure, that nigh 2.2 ton weight makes it roll that wee bit and that steering has a more a fair degree of artificial heaviness to it, but for a Limo which is so mind bogglingly comfortable in another mode, the A8L simply dazzles you with its poise. We were more than impressed by its sure-footedness and agility, especially having taken into account its gargantuan size, enormous length and heavy weight. Even with all of those 800 Nms of torque, we found the A8 holding its line impeccably well, its tyres showing reluctance to wail or slide out before being taken to a highly respectable limit – especially for a luxury limo.
Sure, the A8 is no sports car. Its weight and size imparts it its naturally tendency to resist sudden direction changes in quick succession, but we’re here to tell you that in the tight Dynamic mode, this luxury limo is going to far surpass your expectations as regards handling.The 8 speed Tiptronic transmission plays the perfect foil to all that power and torque on tap, offering smooth, jerk-free shifts while upshifting and quick kick-downs when you’re in a mood for action. Although this is not the top of the line S-Tronic tranny with the fabled twin clutch and all, it still manages to work amazingly well for the setup. We really don’t have any qualms about the engine-tranny combo.
As regards ride quality, the Adaptive air suspension in Comfort mode makes light work of dealing with the ravaged Indian roads. Audi have tweaked the suspension for the Indian road conditions and the car runs on smaller 18 inch wheels here (unlike 19″ ers in Europe) with a higher tyre profile. This aids primary suspension and helps improve the ride substantially. While the alteration would surely have helped the ride quality, we cannot help but wonder how much better this car would have handled on bigger, lower profile tyres, when it’s already so impressive.
The ride quality is ever so mildly on the stiffer side even in Comfort mode at slow to very slow speeds. As the A8 gains momentum, however, it rides amazingly well, flattening out road imperfections and wavy undulations with elan.
Next Page for Design, Aesthetics and Verdict>>>
Design and Aesthetics
The A8 follows the traditional template for a luxury limo – understatement with a hint of authority. The sheer length and width of the A8L is good enough to grant it the presence that a car in this category should have. Add to that the much admired proportions and sorted design of Audi sedans and you have a car that makes the right statement for its class. Matters have been kept rather simplistic with a big version of the familiar Audi grille doing the job of giving the A8 its familiar (probably too much of it) face. The angled LED lights on the flanks not only add a hint of aggression, but also help distinguish the A8’s face from the smaller sedan members in the Audi family.
A strong beltline running across the length, an accentuation on the doors slightly above the sills and flared arches. Things have been kept rather simple in profile. Two chiseled lines on the boot flanks, dual exhausts, an integrated boot lid spoiler and a horizontal line sending the license plate into a recess form the basis of the theme at the rear.The angular tail-lamps on the A8 are quite distinctive too, and help make the flagship try and stand out.
The A8 makes quite a strong statement. We love it for how it looks as a standalone limo – its subtly styled with just the right hint of assertiveness. The only grouse we have is the similarity with the other sedans, which doesn’t bode well for those looking for exclusivity.
Quite simply put, the A8 is an exceptional car. It offers a great choice of engines, one of which we drove and which managed to leave us astounded with its incredible mix of power and refinement. It’s loaded tight with features and offers options which other cars in the segment don’t. The interior has just the right mix of classy craftsmanship and cutting edge tech. Its backseats are amongst the most comfortable you’ll find anywhere in the universe and are decidedly more feature laden than its peers. Also, the A8 has the uncanny ability to wrap itself around you in Dynamic mode and offer an appreciably sporty drive for its size and weight.
At a price of Rs 1.1 crore ex-showroom for the 4.2 liter TDI variant, the A8 is slightly more expensive than one of its competitors, but is less expensive than another. Also, the engine on the 4.2 TDI is substantially more powerful than the less expensive competitor. Moreover, the A8’s 3.0 TDI variant matches the similar spec competitor price wise.
The A8 is a smashing package. It has all the traditional traits of a super luxury saloon with just the right hint of cool. It’s supremely comfortable and laden with gizmos inside. Even with the new S-class on the horizon and the 7-series having received a recent mid-life facelift, the A8L makes for an extremely compelling buy in its segment.
Next Page for Image Gallery>>>